The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last week approved a number of bills related to port, cyber and drone security, including a measure already passed by the House that requires the Department of Homeland Security to develop a plan for 100 percent screening of commercial and passenger vehicles entering the U.S. at land ports of entry.
The Securing America’s Ports Act (H.R. 5273) passed the House in February and requires the port security plan include the use of large-scale non-intrusive inspection (NII) systems for screening of vehicles and cargo. The plan should also include an inventory of current NII systems in use, the estimated costs of achieving 100 percent scanning, and the impact of 100 percent scanning on wait times at the land ports of entry.
Currently, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspects 15 percent of commercial vehicles and 1 percent of passenger vehicles entering the U.S. at land ports of entry. In the next few years, the agency expects to increase those scanning rates to 72 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
CBP, an arm of DHS, has more than $600 million that Congress has already appropriated for the purchase of large-scale NII systems. Requests for bids from vendors for the inspection systems are expected this year.
The panel also approved a bill that would give the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) administrative subpoena power to use with internet access providers to identify and warn owners and operators of critical infrastructures of specific vulnerabilities on their systems.
The Cybersecurity Vulnerability Identification and Notification Act of 2019 (S. 3045) was also approved earlier this year by the House Homeland Security Committee. The House version of the bill, H.R. 5680, has bipartisan support and was introduced by Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.).
CISA has tools to discover vulnerabilities on critical infrastructure networks but doesn’t have the ability to identify the owners and operators. The subpoena power will allow them to get contact information from internet service providers that is associated with the affected internet protocol address.
Another bill, the Cybersecurity State Coordinator Act of 2020 (S. 3207), directs the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to oversee the coordinator program, which would help states prevent and respond to cyber threats by working across all levels of government and with local entities such as hospitals and schools.
“New Hampshire and communities across the country have seen firsthand the impact that ransomware attacks can have on local governments, schools, nursing homes and other entities,” Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a statement.
The American Security Drone Act of 2019 (S. 2502), sponsored by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), contains a number of provisions including prohibiting the federal government from buying drones manufactured by countries deemed national security threats. The bill also prohibits federal funds awarded through contracts and grants and other agreements to be used to buy these drones.
The bill also requires the White House Office of Management and Budget to contract with a federally-funded research and development center to study the global and domestic market for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS).
China’s DJI makes most of the recreational drones used worldwide.
“Communist China continues to steal our technology and intellectual property, yet the U.S. government continues to buy critical technology, like drones, with American tax dollars from Chinese companies backed by their government,” Scott said in a statement. “This threatens our national security and has to stop.”
The House in February passed the Drone Origin Security Enhancement Act (H.R. 4753), which prohibits DHS from buying foreign-made UAS from companies that are strategic competitors of the U.S.
The committee also approved a bill passed by the House last September that directs DHS to establish a homeland intelligence doctrine. The Unifying DHS Intelligence Enterprise Act (H.R. 2589) directs DHS to “develop and disseminate written department-wide guidance for the processing, analysis, production, and dissemination of homeland security information and terrorism information.”
To help combat the smuggling of opioids into the U.S., the committee also approved the DHS Opioid Detection Resilience Act of 2019 (H.R. 4761), which requires CBP to ensure chemical screening devices are able to identify narcotics at purity levels equal to or less than 10 percent, or provide an alternate method for identifying narcotics at lower purity levels.
The opioid detection bill, which passed the House in December, also directs DHS to develop a centralized spectral database for chemical screening devices.
The Senate panel approved all the bills by voice vote.